The Problem With Ammunition Forecasting

Date 03.16.2017

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Written by Christopher Spence

Helmuth von Moltke once stated, “No plan survives contact with the enemy.”  The same can be quoted when it comes to forecasting ammunition.  No matter how far in advance you plan your training, unintended consequences always seem to find their way into the details. In the paragraphs that follow we will explore the ammunition forecasting process and what can be done to improve it.

What is forecasted ammunition? 

Every year, military units are allocated a set amount of ammunition based upon the Standards in Training Commission or STRAC.  “The commission is responsible for determining quantities and types of munitions required for Soldiers, crews and units to attain and sustain weapon proficiency relative to readiness levels” (ATSC, 2015).  Upon receiving its ammunition forecast, the using unit reviews the document and ascertains allocated amounts by type, or if any ammunition needs to be turned in, because they will be unable to expend that type of ammunition during that fiscal year.

Once a military battalion finalizes their list, the ammunition is sub-divided amongst the companies.  The companies then divide their allocation down to the platoon or team level.  At the team level, they can then begin to develop a training plan, based on annual training guidance from the commander or self-identified training gaps.

How is ammunition forecasted? 

In order for a unit to use its STRAC allocated ammunition, it must first be requested.  One would think that because it is the unit’s allocation, they should be able to use it whenever they want to train.  In a perfect world that would be great, but the system does not work in that manner.  Ninety days prior to a unit’s selected training range, they must request its ammunition.  Once that request reaches the unit’s ammunition manager, the request is then sent to the ammunition depot that is holding the ammunition. The ammunition depot then ships the ammunition to the requesting unit, where it will be stored at the post Ammunition Supply Point, or ASP. 

How is your ammunition used? 

Once the ammunition has been placed in the unit’s ASP, it must be expended within 30 days, or one calendar month.  During that month, the using unit is free to expend the ammunition as per their training plan.  But things can change during that 30-day period, and the unit may find that it is unable to use it.  The range requested may not be available due to maintenance, and similar ranges may be in use by other units who have a higher training priority.  Therefore, the training plan for which the unit has spent hours developing and forecasting ammunition, has fallen apart.

What happens to unused ammunition? 

If the ammunition is not used during the 30-day window, it will be removed from the unit’s ASP and returned to the post ASP.  Once the ammunition is returned, the unit will be unable to request that block of ammunition for 90 days as it is returned back into the system.  In order to conduct the planned training, the unit is required to once again forecast 90 days from when the date it intends to make up that training, starting the entire process all over again.  This is how today’s military is forced to plan in order to conduct training.

What can we do break this cycle? 

In the past, companies like Simunition and Ultimate Training Munitions (UTM) have offered non-lethal training munitions.  While a revolutionary idea, they failed to address the one key component found in all ammunition.  All rifle and pistol ammunition used by the military contain a primer, and a primer is considered an explosive device which must be transported and stored in accordance with governing regulations.  Simunitions and UTM, while not lethal, are still classified as ammunition and must be treated in the same manner as live ammunition.

UNIT Solutions is attempting to break this cycle and introduce a training aid that actually gives users the ability train more often, without having to forecast or request ammunition as described above.  By listening to soldiers and police, both retired and active duty, they set out to develop a system that addressed their concerns.  The development of UNIT’s TTS-4, by directly addresses concerns about ammunition forecasting.

Instead of firing a projectile, the TTS-4 expels either an 8mm marking or non-marking projectile, using only compressed air.  Since the projectiles are not fired by using a primer, they do not fall under the military regulations governing ammunition, because they do not contain explosives, or create a chemical reaction.  As a result, TTS-4 rounds can now be ordered online and shipped right to a unit, meaning they are no longer restricted by their STRAC ammunition allocations.  As a trainer, this would allow you to conduct training more often, by removing many of the training distractors that accompany training with ammunition.  Lastly, by mitigating many of the established requirements associated with scheduling ammunition for training, more time can be spent actually training.  In the end, more time training will certainly make for a better trained force.

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Christopher Spence works in Business Development for UNIT Solutions. Previously, he served for 25 years in the U.S. Army, including 17 years with the United States Army Special Forces.